ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - The Houston Astros had to give credit where it was due Sunday after Tampa Bay's Chris Archer shut them out for the 10th time this season.
The rookie right-hander gave up five hits while striking out eight without a walk in the Rays' 5-0 victory. It was Archer's first shutout.
``I think good can be an understatement,' said Houston manager Bo Porter. ``He was excellent today. It was more about him than it was about anything else. Any time you have a guy take the mound and have the kind of performance Archer had today, it would make any team look like they don't have a lot of energy.'
Houston headed into the All-Star break with a 17-inning scoreless streak. The Astros have lost 12 of 15 and have the worst record in the majors at 33-61 during their first season in the American League.
Between Saturday's third inning and the fourth inning Sunday, the Astros went 11 straight innings without scoring or leaving a runner on base. Only four runners reached base in those 11 innings; two were doubled up and two were picked off.
With only two men getting as far as second base since Saturday's first inning, the Astros looked like a team that could use the four-day All-Star break.
``We've been in a lot of games that we haven't been able to pull out,' Porter said. ``As we move forward in the second half, I think we'll find a way to start to win a lot of those games.'
In losing five of seven games to the Rays in the last two weeks, the Astros scored a total of 14 runs and were shut out three times.
``Houston pitched really well against us, and they did again today,' said Rays manager Joe Maddon. ``It was a 3-0 game until Desmond (Jennings) hits that home run. I respect what they're doing with their pitching staff, and as they grow position players they're going to be very tough.'
Jennings beat out an infield hit in the first inning and scored the first run on Evan Longoria's double. The Rays added two more runs in the fourth with the help of a throwing error by Astros starter Erik Bedard.
Bedard (3-6) gave up eight hits and struck out six in five innings, but he needed 109 pitches to get there, just three fewer than Archer needed to pitch nine innings. The Rays had a hit in every inning.
``It was hard to find a groove when there was always somebody on base,' Bedard said. ``I just tried to limit the damage.'
Jennings hit his 11th homer, connecting in the sixth off Paul Clemens after Kelly Johnson's third straight single. Jennings also preserved the shutout by running down Jason Castro's 400-foot line drive to center field for the final out with a runner on base.
``Archy deserved it,' Jennings said. ``He threw as well as he has all year. He deserved to finish that game. I thought from the fourth or fifth inning he was going to pitch the whole game, just by the way he was throwing every pitch where he wanted. That was fun to watch.'
Archer called it ``the best game I've ever pitched in my life.' It was the 15th straight quality start for the Rays, who went into the All-Star break in second place in the AL East.
NOTES: OF Chris Carter was out of the Astros' lineup for a second straight day due to a sore ankle . . . Astros LHP Brett Oberholtzer was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City after the game . . . Manager Bo Porter announced that Bud Norris will start the Astros' first game after the break Friday against Seattle . . . Bedard is 11-7 lifetime against the Rays, the team has faced more than any other in his career (24 starts) . . . Rays SS Yunel Escobar left the game in the ninth inning with a mild hamstring strain . . . Rays RHP Alex Cobb pitched off the Tropicana Field mound for the first time since being struck on the head by a line drive on June 15. Cobb called it ``a relief' to be back on the mound and said he hopes to pitch in another game within a couple of weeks of the All-Star break.
The Associated Press News Service
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